• Tuesday, October 21, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Famous and infamous births

    21 Dec 2009


    By Paula Modersohn Becker

    By Paula Modersohn Becker

    When is a photo of a woman giving birth considered pornographic? Take your pick:

    A. When it is shown in a pornographic magazine, film or website.
    B. Never.
    C. When it is emailed to government officials urging action to improve public health.

    One could argue about A and B but this blog is about C.

    Earlier this year, in Zambia, Chansa Kabwela, news editor at the feisty opposition newspaper The Post, was charged with circulating pornography with intent to corrupt public morals. More »

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CEDAW!

    18 Dec 2009


    Ask the woman sitting next to you in the bus, train, plane, taxi-brousse or donkey cart what is CEDAW, and most probably you will draw a blank look. C’est quoi?

    Yet CEDAW – Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – has likely impacted on her life and her daughters, if she has any, in many ways, from pension and inheritance rights to the passport they hold.

    Quilt made by women of Kyrgztan. (Unifem)

    Quilt made by women of Kyrgztan. (Unifem)

    CEDAW, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 30 years ago today, is the global Bill of Rights for Women, the first international human rights treaty devoted to gender equality.

    Through its 30 articles, CEDAW has boosted women’s rights worldwide in many ways.

    More »

    Living a woman’s life

    04 Dec 2009


    Today at noon my daughter graduated from high school. In the afternoon, the email brought news about very dear friends.

    Motherhood, sisterhood, friendship.

    Motherhood, sisterhood, friendship.

    In Paris, the Chilean researcher, novelist and feminist Ana (Nicha) Vazquez Bronfman had died, aged 71. She was a beacon for a generation of Latin American women for her insights on identity  and gender. One concept she elaborated specially was “transculturation” – the permanent construction of identities in this world of global migration. In 2006 she wrote superbly about sexuality among the elderly – transgressions and secrets, she called it.

    In Rome, my friend and fellow journalist Paola Rolletta underwent the next to last chemotherapy session against breast cancer. She was jubilant to see the end of the chemical bombardment. Like antiretrovirals, chemo saves lives but is no picnic.   More »

    A spiritual gift

    23 Nov 2009


    Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

    Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

    What drives a 17-year-old girl to enter a monastery? Today she is 30, and still happy about her choice. Her eyes sparkle and her laughter comes easy. She exudes peace.

    I will call her Gabra (gift, in Amharic), for our conversation was private. I met her at a monastery near Lalibela, the mystical city of rock-hewn churches in northern Ethiopia.

    Monastic life has a long tradition and prestige in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The oldest monastery dates from the 6th century. A monastic renaissance between the 13th and 16th century brought great moral and political authority to clergy.

    Custodians of tradition

    Custodians of tradition

    Gabra’s rock-hewn monastery dates from the 12th century. Her room is excavated in the pink tufa rock. Two built-in-the-rock platforms, covered with a thin mattress, do as couch and bed. An old cupboard holds a few plates and cooking utensils, three of the long green robes worn by Ethiopian peasants, the white headscarves that nuns wear, and two pairs of sandals.

    More »

    HILARIOUS CONDOM ADS

    21 Sep 2009


    Gender Masala has been dealing with serious topics seriously …it’s time for a fun break!  Check out these hilarious condom ads from several continents. They make safe sex fun.

    Make safe sex fun. By M. Sayagues

    Make safe sex fun. By M. Sayagues

    Ranging  from sassy dialogue to black humour, these are one-minute comedies with a smart punchline. The Mother from Hell and the Spoiled Brat skits have a Borat-like humour.  And who would have thought a condom ad from India would depict anal sex?

    Click on the ad from Argentina even if you don’t speak Spanish.  Everybody who has been a teenager will chuckle about these teens, their parents and their predicament. (Watch it here)

    Laughing got me thinking about how seldom one sees humorous ads about condoms in English-speaking Southern Africa. I have seen some cool ads in Mozambique, though – I think there were Brazilian advisors involved. More »

    Breakthrough for Women at the UN

    18 Sep 2009


    Guest blogger:  Ann Ninan, IPS Gender Editor

    Is there room for us as well? M. Sayagues

    A breakthrough for us as well? M. Sayagues

    The UN has finally decided to stand up for women!  A decision to create a new agency for women was taken by the General Assembly on September14.

    Our colleague Thalif Deen, IPS bureau chief in New York, was the first and only journalist to report it for the first several hours.

    But this blog is not to crow about our scoop.

    I’m quite excited by the prospect of a new women’s agency with money and political power. No longer will the world’s feminists have to lobby from the outside to put their views on the table. They have now won admission to the high table.

    Any one of those bright, articulate, activist women can emerge to lead the agency. The reality is likely to be less rosy. But chances are that, because it’s new, it will be less under the thumb of the old boy network.

    You think I’m a romantic? What the hell, there is no harm in dreaming, is there?  More »

    Missing the Point? A critical review of MDG

    14 Sep 2009


    Next time you read a story or a press release moaning about how country X will not reach the Millennium Development Goals, think twice – whose goal and whose target is it? We know the deadline but do we know the baseline?

    Instead of striking a balance between ambition and realism, the MDGs have become “money-metric and donor-centric”, “meaningless catch-all phrases.”

    So says Jan Vandemoortele, a Belgian national, a United Nations senior official and one of the architects of the MDGs, in a thought-provoking article in the July issue of  Development Policy Review of the Overseas Development Institute. (read it here)

    Unrealistic? A crowded classrom in Guinea Bissau...

    Unrealistic goal? A crowded classroom in Guinea Bissau...

    The author recalls that the MDGs were set up in 2000 as collective targets based on extrapolations of global trends.  They are vague by definition; they are not one-size-fits-all.

    Instead, one should look at countries’ historical backgrounds, natural endowments and specific problems, then adapt the Goals to each circumstance, as Mozambique, Cambodia and Ethiopia have done.

    Otherwise, this puts undue pressure on the poorest countries and, given that most of these are in Africa, nurtures Afro-pessimism.

    For example, the global target for education “is not realistic” for countries in conflict, he says.                              More »

    HAPPY BIRTH-DAY TO ALL MOTHERS

    07 Sep 2009


    Safe motherhood for all. By F. Beaumont.

    Safe motherhood for all. By F. Beaumont.

    My daughter Esmeralda turns 18 today. Like all parents, I am amazed at how time flies. Like all mothers, I get reminiscent about those days, 18 years ago.

    I was very pregnant and very happy. I lived in Rome, Italy, and I wanted a home birth.

    I wanted music, soft light, friends, baby on my stomach still attached by umbilical cord, no drugs, and no epidural. A birth by my own rules, not by a cold hospital’s.

    I found a group specialized in home births – Il Melograno. Their package included ob-gyn and midwife, courses, support and, more importantly, a woman-friendly feel. A photographer from Marie Claire magazine would do a photo reportage on my happy home birth.

    Our premise: pregnancy is neither a disease nor a disability. Pregnancy and birth have become over-medicalized; women should reclaim it from doctors overly fond of control and caesareans. More »

    Whose pleasure? Notes about male circumcision and female sexuality

    24 Aug 2009


    Guest blogger: Pierre Brouard, Deputy Director, Centre for the Study of Aids, University of Pretoria, South Africa

    Permanent erection, permanent pleasure?

    Hard task: defining sexual pleasure. Photo: M. Sayagues

    So what headlines have grabbed you lately about male circumcision in South Africa? These caught my eye:

    “The death toll in the Eastern Cape’s winter circumcision season has risen to 31”
    “Circumcision ‘scam’ probed”
    “Two on run after initiate dies”

    As alarming and distressing as these headlines are – and the sad, desperate and greedy subtexts embedded in them – they don’t say much about the other big debate that is raging across southern Africa: the value of male circumcision to prevent HIV acquisition in heterosexual men, and what’s in it for women. More »